Lakes Alive Festival – Wolfing down the miles, Friday, September 7, 2018

Jack Lee

I feel that the Elvet Striders have taken part of some odd and wacky events over time but it isn’t often that you get to impersonate a wolf for a weekend, so when Stuart Scott forwarded me an appeal for fell runners to impersonate wolves for the Lakes Alive festival, I applied.

At this point, I never foresaw actually doing the event. And so it was, with a fair bit of trepidation, that I donned my wolf cape and wolf head and set off on the Friday morning.

The event was part of the Lakes alive festival starting at Humphrey Head (the location of the last wolf in Britain) and running to Kendal. Over the space of three days the wolves had a lot to do. The aim of the game was for the public to come and “hunt” the wolves, which essentially involved members of the public trying to photograph the wolves and the wolves being elusive and evasive. The second day, however, involved a staged event where the public were ferried out to Mill Side and had a close encounter with the wolves but I am getting ahead of myself.

Anyway getting back on track, at 8 am on Friday the 7th of September, myself and three other fell runners from Sheffield set off from Humphrey Head, making the excursion through Allithwaite, Cartmel and Lindale over the space of the day. Each time we saw humans we skulked and hid in the shadows, but not well enough that they didn’t get a sighting. This, combined with howling on hilltops and relative gentle progress, marked a relatively casual first day, which ended in a bunkhouse in Mill Side eating good food and drinking a couple of beers with the trackers turned off.

The next day was focussed on the exhibition events where members of the public were ferried out to Mill Side for two events; one in the morning and the second in the afternoon. Early in the morning, the wolf pack set off for an hour or so run, over Whitbarrow where at approximately 11.30am we emerged from mists on the top and howled while visible to the people sheltering in the hide below. We then set off leaping rocks and pieces of broken limestone pavement and throwing ourselves down a steep slope to appear fifteen minutes later around a staged “kill” (in reality a deerskin and head). We approached carefully checking for danger while rubbing scent onto a couple of trees and getting our legs torn to pieces by brambles. Then after a while feasting on deer, all our heads went up in unison and we scampered off into the undergrowth. Only to reappear in the afternoon to go through it all again.

It was after this second performance that my time as a wolf came to an end and after some dinner, I got a lift back to Kendal to spend some time with my brother and father. The next day, however, I decided that the hunted would become the hunter. Not many people had been actively hunting the wolves during the first few days so after a coffee in Kendal I donned my running kit and grabbed my phone and the hunt began. The game platform was composed of a website with a live tracking display of the wolves’ locations, but to access this you had to share your location and I knew from experience as a wolf that if a hunter got within 200m then the wolves would be pinged an alert.

The wolves at this time were on Scout Scar and from my cunning and the route map, I had accidentally kept, I figured out I could cut them off as they circled Kendal from the west. I legged it up Underbarrow roads and waited near the top, but a game of cat and mouse ensued.

The wolves dodging other hunters repeatedly cut up and down the hillside meaning I kept overshooting or dropping short with only a few long distance sightings. I decided to relocate to the Kendal golf course where, hiding behind a wall lying fully prone, I got some photographs of the wolves passing. After a bit of a chase, we then met down in Kendal and I joined them for a final jog to the main staging point of the Lakes Alive festival. We were accompanied by a group of kids dressed up in wolf costumes of their own. All that was left after that was to wolf down some biscuits and a cup of coffee provided, then I left the pack and set off as a lone wolf.

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